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article imageOp-Ed: 'Born to lead' gene? Could be, but some very vague mixed messages

By Paul Wallis     Jul 19, 2014 in Science
Sydney - A "born to lead" gene has been identified. Going by the catchy name of rs4950, it appears to be a common, hereditary gene in leaders. This study is a new part of a series of leadership studies carried out by different colleges over the last decade.
The debate is now getting highly technical — and worrying, if you care about human realities.
A bit of background first: “Born to lead” is a highly controversial issue in class-based societies. It’s one of the cultural hallmarks of some social groups in Western societies. If it turns into part of a new “genetic Master Race” scenario, this group of studies could become a new battleground for social division.
The other side of this issue is far less obvious. Some people are definitely not leaders. They prove it, horribly, when put in to leadership roles. They’re indecisive, weak, lacking in objective vision, and unsure, at all the wrong times. They tend to be despised by the people they’re supposed to be leading.
There is obviously a dichotomy between leaders and non-leaders, but it’s hardly well defined. Some people can lead in specialist areas, but not higher roles. Some can lead in senior roles, but not in lower echelons of an organization.
Many people are leaders to a point, but not on a large scale. Others can only lead with an army of helpers doing the actual management, creating the least efficient of all social groups, an oligarchy of sectional supremos, doing the real leadership.
Sydney Morning Herald:
Last year, five universities, including Harvard and the London School of Economics, published the results of an intriguing study conducted on twins. They identified, for the first time, a leadership gene. (In case you’re wondering, it’s rs4950). Their research discovered people with that gene are more likely to be leaders. But the precise influence of rs4950 is not yet known. What’s clear, however, is that it’s there and significantly related to leadership.
In 2012, another study was conducted on twins, this one by the National University of Singapore and Arizona State University. The researchers found that, yep, genetic similarities are present among many leaders. But, more importantly, the type of leader one becomes — known academically as "transformational" — is far more hereditary.
Before we go any further:
1. The theory of leadership includes a concept called “dominance”, which in siblings can be a messy thing.
2. Twins are obviously a good basis for comparing genetic variance, but twins don’t comprise the entire population of the world.
3. “Transformational” leadership could also be described in the literal sense — the leadership which transforms a group, manages change, etc.
Another study, this time by the University of Melbourne:
… again, twins were studied – more than 12,000 of them – with gender differences the main focus. The researchers found, much like the other two studies, a genetic connection. But, for women, that genetic influence mysteriously seems to be strongest during their child-rearing years. Conversely, for men, the influence is linear throughout their working lives.
…Maybe not so mysteriously. Leadership during child-rearing years could also be called common sense, and good timing. It also begs the question regarding women who don’t have kids and non-twins. Some of the world’s greatest female leaders, notably Elizabeth the First of England, who had no kids, and Catherine the Great of Russia, who had three, also weren’t twins.
The line “…the influence is linear” suggests continuity, but not all men, let alone all twins, are leaders. Men also typically compete for leadership roles, particularly against other men, historically.
A working gene, if proven to promote leadership roles, is obviously a possible “breeding selection” asset, but not necessarily a socially welcome asset. Many people feel themselves quite disadvantaged enough already without having a perceived genetic inferiority as well.
Stealth eugenics?
This type of study has to go a lot further. The advocates of “superior” humans have been a major disaster, antagonizing their “inferiors” and losing on a regular basis. The Nazis and others have preached various forms of superiority before. “Eugenics”, the idea of breeding racial superiority in humans, sprang from Mendel’s experiments with peas, and became an excuse for genocide.
It’s unclear where this research will lead, but there are some no-go zones which would be better remaining that way. People are already worrying about being excluded from insurance and employment based on genetic “evaluations.”
A few questions:
Why research this subject at all? Who stands to gain what?
If leaders can be identified by genetic analysis, does that help or hinder?
What if leadership were to become arbitrary, based on genes, rather than abilities?
Effective leadership becomes apparent based on achievements, not genetic or other qualifications. How do you identify a successful leader, using this method?
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World created specially bred castes of humans, from Alphas to Epsilon Sub Morons. The result was a stagnant, mindless society, from which sprang nothing but stagnation and mindlessness. The world doesn’t need any more self-proclaimed super-people. It needs real people. Let reality handle the details, guys, and let Ma Nature manage the genes.
It is simply not possible to believe that a science which allows any old genetically modified food on the shelves is able to manage human genetic selection. It’s also hard to accept that this approach will naturally identify great leaders, based on a hereditary trait. Most of the hereditary dynasties of the past, in fact, crashed and burned.
There’s another problem — this sort of semi-digested, incomplete science tends to produce whole half-baked industries, like the infamous stem cell scams and quack remedies. Imagine the possibilities of “we can make your kid a superman/girl/vegetable with genetic testing and our wonderful expensive training workshops” in the Chinese or American markets. It’d make Tiger Moms look like the pixies.
So far, no thanks. Take it back to the drawing board and let’s see an objective view and basis for this research.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about university of melbourne, Harvard university, london school of economics, Gregor Mendel, Eugenics
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